Even for a very well-prepared student, Minuet No. 2 in Book 1 can present some new hurdles. In this post, I will give some of my tricks for teaching this piece.
When first previewing Minuet 2, I start with two spots which are tricky for most students: measures 15-16 and 33-34. I call these “Pineapple #1” and “Pineapple #2”, which I will explain in a moment. There are several new skills presented in these measure. From a rhythm standpoint, this is the first time the student has played a triplet rhythm. It’s also the first time they have slurred three notes under one bow. The hooked up bows are not technically new, though there is a new string crossing aspect in this excerpt. So, what’s with the pineapples?
My favorite cake is pineapple upside down cake and if you say the words “pineapple up-side down” in m. 15, not only does it match the rhythm, but it also tells you the bowing, because the word “up” is on an up bow and the word “down” is on a down bow. For m. 33, I use the words “pineapple up side down, little up” to match the different ending. In previewing these “pineapples”, I will have the student air bow many times while saying or singing the words. I want the bowing to become automatic before we introduce the fingers. From this point onward, I refer to these spots as Pineapple #1 and Pineapple #2.
Pineapple No. 1 includes both a low 2nd finger and a high/normal 2nd finger, which some students struggle with. This is a good time to review the walking fingers studies in viola Book 2, if they haven’t been introduced already (from Suzuki’s Quint Etudes for the violinists), in which the student alternates high and low 2’s going up and down the instrument. I also like to point out to my students that these are the same pattern of high and low 2’s are found in Bohemian Folk Song and Etude, just in a different order.
For students who have not yet played slurs, the new slurs and hooked bows can get a bit tangled, so I will write “railroad tracks” (caesura) in the music and have the student practice stopping the bow after each slur to keep the slurs organized. At this point, the student won’t be reading from the music, but I like to show them visually where we are stopping. For students who really don’t like to stop playing, I use the words “think about it” in rhythm, so in practice, it will sound like this:
Pineapple (think about it) Up Side (think about it) Down.
The last hurdle in Pineapple #2 (m. 33) is the use of high 3. I like to take “twinkle-ize” Pineapple #2, taking out all the bowings and rhythms and playing the variation A rhythm on each note so we can just focus on the fingers. To reinforce high 3, it can also be fun to try some review pieces starting on a different note (great for ear training!). For example starting piece like Long, Long Ago or Go Tell Aunt Rhody a whole step higher, the high 3 must be used.
The first line can present a formidable challenge for clean string crossings. I also like to twinkle-ize the first line and review the concept of “dropping” and “tipping”. When crossing to a higher pitched string, the student must drop the elbow, to cross to a lower pitched string, they must tip the hand, with the arm following. I will even have students practice this line slowly and say “drop” or “tip” before moving the bow to the next string level.
Lastly, even students who are very diligent in their daily listening sometimes do not hold the dotted half notes their full value. In addition to counting “1, 2, 3”, I explain that the piano part counts for us. Looking at the piano accompaniment, while the student is holding their long note in m. 9, the pianist is playing straight eighth notes. I will play just the left hand of the piano part with my student and during m. 9, will say “ready set and here we GO.” The student should enter in m. 10 on the word “GO”. I might practice this in the lesson by playing the piano part and having the student clap on their entrance, then play a single note, and then add the rest of the notes.
There are many challenges to playing Minuet No. 2 well, but I find that most students really love this piece, due to its faster notes and upbeat, lively character. Minuet No. 2 is often a student favorite and both helps to improve upon string crossing and fingering skills learned earlier in the book and paves the way for later pieces.